What would a good rivalry be without some trash talk and some bulletin board material, right?
Especially in a rivalry as one-sided as Michigan vs. Minnesota has been for the Little Brown Jug, where the Wolverines have won 21 of the last 22 meetings.
Yet, the media took the words of Minnesota Golden Gophers players and labeled it as "trash talk" ahead of its game with the Michigan Wolverines this season.
So, congrats Minnesota, you've angered an already-ticked-off bunch and you've talked trash to a team that's owned your school for longer than you've been alive.
Or so the narrative has gone.
There's just one problem with all of that—is it trash-talking when what is being said is the truth?
What were the egregious statements made by the Gophers this week? Well, here is a sampling of the "trash talk" by Minnesota (h/t to the Detroit Free Press):
Safety Cedric Thompson: “If we win — when we win — this week, it’s definitely going to be something that can erase all of that (disappointment).”
Defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman: “Just the fact they almost lost to Akron, they’re human. You know what I mean? Everybody praises them to be elite, and I just feel like they’re a regular football team.”
Thompson again, on Gardner: “I think he kind of just panics a lot. I think that when he scrambles, he kind of just throws the ball.”
Oh the humanity!
Either that, or what Thompson and Hageman had to say was the truth.
I'm going to go with the latter on this one—the reality is Gardner has panicked this season outside of the pocket, and Michigan has looked like an average football team for the past two weeks of the season.
Michigan has won its last two games by a grand total of seven points to two teams with a combined record of 1-8 on the season in Akron and UConn. Things got so bad at UConn that, following a 29—yes twenty-nine—point loss to Buffalo, they let head coach Paul Pasqualoni go.
What was UConn's best game of the season to date? That's right, the fourth-quarter-meltdown game against Michigan.
Do we need to be reminded that Michigan was down double digits to that same UConn team heading into the fourth quarter?
"Elite" teams don't need to pull off crazy fourth-quarter comebacks to teams that get their rear ends handed to them by MAC opponents—that's simply a reality of college football.
But, if you need further proof, Gardner has eight interceptions to just seven touchdown passes on the season.
Not all of the issues in the passing game are on Gardner, as an offensive line shakeup during the bye week took place, but he has been part of the problem and not part of the solution ever since that fateful pick-six.
Perhaps the big deal is that Minnesota had the audacity to speak what everyone else was thinking.
At the end of the day, though, when the pads go on and the whistle blows for the opening kickoff do you really think anyone is going to care about the words spoken to the media?
Michigan head coach Brady Hoke sure doesn't think so, and he told the Detroit Free Press as much: “Some of that can last about one play," said Hoke. "You kick the ball off, and it’s like anything else, you get that first hit in you and you really forget about that and you concentrate on what you have to do.”
Will Michigan be able to put those words up on the bulletin board this week and on Saturday morning as they enter Michigan Stadium? Sure, but I'm willing to bet those words were spoken inside the Michigan locker room long before any Minnesota player spoke them this week.
Does a team with its own questions and bad performance a week ago have any business talking about another mediocre football team? Probably not, but that's not the point here.
The point is, what Minnesota said wasn't trash talk, it was the truth—and sometimes the truth hurts.
*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter: @andycoppens.
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